Contraversial Issues in Parenting #1: How to get Baby to Sleep: The Ferber Method

Sleeping Wizard

I’m putting our stake in the ground on this debate: We believe co-sleeping is better than the Ferber method. There are essentially two competing philosophies about how parents ought to put their infant to sleep, The Ferber method and Co-sleeping. In a nutshell, the Ferber method, Named for Dr. Richard Ferber with whom this process has become identified, involves putting your infant to sleep and responding to its cries less and less frequently until the infant learns to sleep on its own without its parents’ comforting. This is also known as the cry-it-out method. The other method is called Co-sleeping, where, as the name implies, the baby sleeps with the parents. In this method the baby has the comfort and attention provided by its parents in order to ease it into sleep.

Now many orthodox pediatricians are opposed to co-sleeping on the grounds that sleeping with an infant in the bed could put the infant in danger, or even kill the infant accidentally in an extreme case. However, the truth is that among parents who do not go to sleep drunk or under the influence of other intoxicants, the baby is perfectly safe: a baby will let you know if it needs you to move the heck out of its way. This anti -co-sleeping stance is an example of what i like to call “learned resistance to salutary instinct” also known as fixing something when it ain’t broke. This is an instance of humans conducting research and devising an artificial behavior because it appears to be more efficient but in reality may actually be worse than what it intends to improve upon.

The funny thing is that Dr. Ferber himself is not a big fan of the Ferber method after all!:

Dr. Ferber, despite his link to the technique, said he rarely used it.

“It’s not a pattern that most parents will do,” he said. (…)

Despite the risks, Dr. Ferber came out in support of co-sleeping, for parents who prefer it, in the latest edition of his book, “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” (Fireside, 2006). “To me, whether a family chooses to co-sleep should be their decision, and we work with them either way,” he said.

One of the most prominent advocates of co-sleeping, Dr. Robert Sears, who co-authored “The Baby Sleep Book” with his father, mother and brother, is a strong critic of “cry-it-out” methods. “We’re all for routines and consistency, so long as the baby isn’t left to cry it out alone,” Dr. Sears said in a telephone interview from his family’s pediatric clinic in Capistrano Beach, Calif.

-NYTimes Science Times Article “For Getting Baby to Sleep” 12/12/06 by Dan Hurley (link to PDF of whole article)

Like so many things in our modern life we have to unlearn the apparently advanced, outwardly efficient ways of doing things and return to straight, simple organic choices. Trust me, baby likes it much better that way!

Additional reference: Slate article written by a “Failed Ferberizer” (web link)

In our case, Isa is so big now, I worry more about myself in the bed. Palma affectionately calls him The Bruiser.

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3 responses to “Contraversial Issues in Parenting #1: How to get Baby to Sleep: The Ferber Method

  1. I am also a big fan of the co-sleep method (and sleep with my baby every night). Not only does it make me feel closer to her, it also makes it easier to feed when she wakes up hungry – and i don’t have any worries that i won’t hear her since she’s right next to me. Plus I get the added benefit of watching her beautiful angelic face sleeping, feeling her warm body cuddle up next to me, and knowing that she is safe. Although i do have a crib – I only used it a couple times when I went out and had a few cocktails and didn’t want to put her in any risk.

  2. I am on the other end of this spectrum. My experience is influenced by having a baby with colic who cried no matter what for four (almost five) months. If sleep was to be had she needed to be far from my ear. Also, my husband and I enjoyed those few moments before sleep for our own conversation and cuddling. Our daughter is 2 now and she sleeps 11 hours straight at night as well as a 2 and a half hour nap. She has been sleeping through the night since she was seven months old and we tried the advice in “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,” which promote letting them sleep on their own and learn to self sooth. We don’t have any sleep problems or intimacy problems. She is surely bonded to us. Mind you, I am home almost full time so we see a lot of each other. If I had to be gone during the day I’d probably want to savor some time at night as well. The other benefit now is that we can leave her with my mom for a night or go out to dinner. It is actually a real blessing to see her grow and be independent like that.

  3. I used both methods for my children
    they were aloud to sleep with me for 1year – mailnly for nursing. after 1 year we did the ferber method and they slept in a crib.
    my daughter didn’t like this as much as my son who took to it easily.

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